The main elements of the canon are these.
Ghostbusters(GB1)(1984, Columbia Pictures) Directed by Ivan Reitman. The 1999 DVD release includes a commentary track by Reitman, Harold Ramis, and producer Bernie Brillstein, as well as deleted scenes. Some of this made it into the Timeline.
Ghostbusters 2(GB2)(1989, Columbia Pictures) Directed by Ivan Reitman.
The Real Ghostbusters(RGB)(1986-1991,Columbia Pictures Television and DiC Productions; ABC 1986-1991; Syndicated 1987) Story Edited by J. Micheal Straczynski (1986-87,1990) and Len Jansen and Chuck Menville (1987-1991) Retitled Slimer!and The Real Ghostbusters in Season Three.
Extreme Ghostbusters(XGB)(Columbia Pictures Television and Adelaide Productions, 1997)Story edited by Dean Stephan. Some fans choose not to regard it as canon, but as it was released with Columbia's approval and is, at the moment, the "last word" in official stories, it is included.
The following are "secondary" sources. They were officially licensed by Columbia Pictures, but not televised. If I followed Roddenberry's Law ("It only counts if it's on screen") I wouldn't use these.
The Real Ghostbusters(RGB#)(Now Comics, 1988-1993) Now published two volumes of this series, the first volume featuring stories by sci-fi writer James Van Hise and art by John Tobias, who went on to be the character designer for the early Mortal Kombat games. Paul Rudoff, of the currently inactive Spook Central website, had a letter printed in one issue, and Yours Truly had some in three (#22,#24, and Vol.2#1)I have not included the Slimer! comic nor any of the Marvel UK reprints in the continuity at present.
Ghostbusters: Legion (GBL#1-4) and The Zeddemore Factor (GB#0) (88MPH Studios, 2004-2005)
While not created to fit into the RGB continuity, they're not overly contradictory to it either if allowances are made for Slimer's role and (should the reader so choose) the appearances of the Ghostbusters. Plus it was so kick-ass I just plain want to include it.
Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Role Playing Game and Ghostbusters International (GBI)(West End Games, 1986/1989) The GBI edition includes character profiles that give the ages of the characters, from which I derived some conjectural years of birth. I later changed the concepts of my timeline, but kept the old dates because XGB gives Egon's age in one episode, and it fit perfectly with the first estimate, derived from the assumption that the ages given were the 1990 ages. Some "facts" I mention as conjectural were derived from material that Jim Harley and I "established" during two campaigns run on this game system.
Ghostbusters.net, now archived, webmastered by Chad Paulson, was an experience. You could spend hours just prowling through the message boards and fan fictions. Its episode reviews included plot synapsis that were invaluable in preparing this document, and the insight and support of several members proved invaluable in the fine tuning of this document.
The Real Ghostbusters Fan Page! Webmastered by Shiela Paulson, possibly the most prolific creator of Ghostbuster fan fiction. Many of the names for Ghostbuster relatives not originating in the canon come from her works.
Labidolemur's Ghostbusters Fan Fiction Review features a wonderful Ghostbuster Canon List (slightly out of date, but it reminded me of things even I'd forgotten!) and some insightful insights into the characters, including some speculations about the Ghostbusters' religions and whether Egon has Marfan Syndrome.
Spook Central is run by Paul Rudoff, like Fritz a contributor to the Now comics' letter pages. Spook Central is one of the best GB sites of all, and the scripts to the movies found there proved invaluable to fact checking the spellings of some words and names
Proton Charging is a great Ghostbusters news site run by Chris "castewar" Stewart.
Epguides.com provided air dates for RGB and XGB, although my personal TV logs conflicted with their listing of Season Four of RGB; this document uses the order my personal notes say they aired in.
Then there were some non-Ghostbuster related works that were nevertheless very helpful
Kevin Simbieda, Beyond the Supernatural (Palladium Books, 1988) While a part of a fictional role-playing universe, it has a wealth of real background detail and how the supernatural might work in a "real" world; a bit grimmer in tone than Ghostbusters, it is nevertheless worth a look if you can find it. The Parapsycholgist PCC just has "Ghostbuster" written all over it.
Timothy and Kevin Burke, Saturday Morning Fever (St. Martin's Griffin, 1999) This half-scholarly half-uproariously subversive book includes some praise for The Real Ghostbusters and even interviews J. Micheal Stracyznski. Especially interesting are the comments about "Russian About"'s use of Lovecraft and how ABC executives pressured him to "'clarify' the role of a black character [Winston] by making him the driver--i.e. chauffer--for the white characters"
Don Rosa, The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (Egmont Publication, 1991-1993; printed in the United States by Gladstone Publishing , 1994-1996, and Gemstone Publishing, 2005) This brilliant work by the seldom-disputed heir to the legacy of the late Carl Barks took the disparate elements of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge continuity, not necessarily meant to work together (never mind be still studied sixty years later) and created a coherent timeline of events and a springboard he still uses to create some of the best stories being published today. Not a direct source, more an example of how it can be done.
This archive is written in the format pioneered by Micheal and Denise Okuda in their Star Trek Chronology, treating the shows as though they are part of one, consistant unfolding saga. One season of animated episodes is approximately equal to one year of real time; the sixty-five syndicated episodes are spread over two different years, placed between the first and second seasons of the ABC episodes; they actually aired concurrant to the second season, but I place them before it because of the changes to the characters--most notable Venkman and Janine--that began with the 1987 ABC episodes were not reflected in the syndication package. In the "peak" years of 1984-85, an average of forty stories "happened" an average of one incident every nine days. The sequence follows the original airdate order as close as possible, though when certain episodes have to be moved by dating details ("X-Mas Marks The Spot", "The Revenge of Murray The Mantis") or internal consistancy ("Venkman's Ghost Repellers", "The Spirit of Aunt Lois", "Cold Cash and Hot Water") I try to note them.
There are only four date references given within the context of the Ghostbusters universe: Five years passes between Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2. Janine graduated high school in 1977 ("The Brooklyn Triangle"). Ray was born in 1959 ("It's About Time") And Egon Spengler was 39 at the time of "Sphinx" Furthermore, we are led to believe that Egon, Janine, and Venkman must have all been born at roughly the same time of the year: Venkman claims to be a Scorpio in "Mean Green Teen Machine". Janine says likewise in "The Crawler". In classic astrology, the Scorpio sun sign is from October 23-November 22. And Egon celebrates his birthday in the week before Thanksgiving during "Back In the Saddle".
But the timeline fell into place by using two assumptions: that the first season of RGB occured in 1984, as the guys are seen participating in the making and premiere of the 1984 movie in "Take Two". The second is that the "gap" between GB1 and Season One is "moved" to the end of Season Three, between it and GB2. Thusly, Seasons One through Three and the Syndicated episodes "occured" approximately two years before they aired, while Seasons Four through Six are spread out through the same years they first aired. I used the same concept for Extreme Ghostbusters, though taking one of Egon's lines in "Grundlesque" literally could make the show occur as early as 1995
My goal was to be as inclusive as possible. Not to say that there weren't problems...but for the most part I wiegh most problems by these standards:
1. The Core Continuity is defined by GB1 and RGB Season One, the latter with preference to the works of series developer and story editor J. Micheal Straczynski. These offer the purest visions of the concept, and most would agree they were the creative peak of the property.
2. If a character or charactorization from a later season of RGB, XGB, or even GB2 conflicts with the Core Continuity, it is eligible to be ruled Invalid. Examples would include: the "Duh, Gee Slimer Little Buddy" version of Venkman, Professor Dweeb, the Junior Ghostbusters, Janine as Desperate Slut, or Janine and Louis Tully as a genuine "item". If a conflict is resolved or explained within the stories themselves, it will usually be allowed to stand (ie Janine as Mommy Figure, explained by "Janine, You've Changed"--and admittedly, being written by JMS gives it extra weight)
3. Conflicting elements of Core Continuity are judged with as much care to both as possible. It is the judgement of this writer, for example, that due to the examples of "Citizen Ghost" and "Take Two", that the Ghostbusters wear the same proton packs in the movies and the cartoons, even though they look different--it's just an interpretive matter. It is also assumed that the nametags are present at all times, just not "noticed" (they are not seen in "Citizen Ghost" on the grey uniforms, and we know they're really there. A Season Four episode, "Elementary. My Dear Winston" offers confirmation of this theorem). Obviously, when a conflict is explained, the explaination stands ("Citizen Ghost" explains the difference in uniform colors and the Containment Unit, for example)
But what about the 88MPH Studios Comics and the iBooks novels? Where do they fit in?
The 88MPH series is essentially a complete "reboot" of the property, restarting after the first movie. The iBooks series is set in a "nebulous time" approximately five years after the second movie. Neither take the continuity formed by the animation into account (though 88MPH is making at least some minor nods to it by having an RGB-styled Ecto Containment Unit). I've already built in a bit of a dodge in the idea that they exist in the Ghostbusters world much like they do here: a licensed product (though overseen by Venkman instead of Sony). I would like to use as much from them as possible, however, taking the 88MPH stories as "untold stories of Year Two" (1984) and the novels as possibly taking place relatively currently (as they're essentially intended), though some subplots and other material may have to be ruled invalid in light of the older continuity.
Even newer item:
What about Ghostbusters 3? Wouldn't it pretty much f*** everything up?
Maybe. Maybe not. But it's not something the Timeline can worry about until it actually happens, and, recent developments notwithstanding, it still seems a very long shot.
In all honesty, it's more accurate to say that Columbia/Sony has created four seperate official continuities that overlap in places, and only have one completely common element: the first movie.
1. Movie Timeline: Canon: GB1, GB2. This Timeline, by definition, will remain closed unless a third movie is made. Nothing else is canon to it. Ghostbusters begin business in 1984, return in 1989, fate beyond that is unknown. If a third movie is made, it will presumably continue this timeline, though some would consider a CGI movie to be creating a fifth continuity, with only the movies as prior canon.
2. Animation Timeline Canon: RGB, XGB; the Now Comics can be included in this Timeline. The events of the movies occur, but there is some reason to believe not exactly as depicted. For one thing, it might be that Dana Barrett doesn't exist in a "pure" animation universe (she's never even referred to) and a lot of the ideas of GB2 are not reflected in the animation. Ghostbusters form between 1983-1985, battle ghosts nonstop until 1991/1992, go out of business until 1997 when Egon forms new team. Fate beyond that is unknown.
3. 88MPH Timeline Canon: GB1, the new comic series. Ghostbusters began business a sort of nebulous "six months ago". Seperate from either the RGB continuity or the movies (otherwise, in the latter case, they'd have gone out of business right after Gozer)
4. iBooks Timeline Canon: GB1, GB2, the new novel series. Set a nebulous "two years after the second movie"--meaning the Ghostbusters have been around seven years in this version. Seperate from either RGB or XGB continuity.
Ghostbusters is©1984 Columbia Pictures The Real Ghostbusters is ©1986 Columbia Pictures Television and DIC Productions. Ghostbusters 2 is © 1989 Columbia Pictures. Extreme Ghostbusters is © 1997 Columbia Pictures Television and Adelaide Productions. The 2004 comic series is ©2004 Sony and 88MPH Studios. The novel series is ©2004 Sony and iBooks. The use of names and events detailed in this document are for reference purposes only, and are not intended to challenge any of the above copyrights.